Have you ever asked yourself, “What would Arnold Schwarzenegger do?” These 31 iron tips will answer this question and help you succeed in building muscle mass.
Long before earning $ 25 million for his film roles, Arnold Schwarzenegger has been writing articles for Joe Weider’s bodybuilding magazine every month. Joe Weider is also regarded as the godfather of bodybuilding. Although, Arnold did not receive any journalistic prize for his writing, he later collected his ideas and training procedures in his best-selling book, The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, which is still recognized today as the perfect source of information for bodybuilders.
Though, this book requires some effort. Not only because it has more than 800 pages, but also because the fanatics who are looking for it with Arnold’s signature have to really try hard. In order to get the best knowledge from one of the strongest minds in bodybuilding, we offer you 31 Arnold training tips on how to achieve a figure of your dreams.
GENERAL TRAINING TIPS
1. Choose the right exercises for growth
Training hard is as important as training wisely. “To become a massive, you must first be strong.”, Arnold wrote. “Beginners and advanced bodybuilders should not focus so much on sophistication than on growth.”
With these Arnold thoughts, you should focus less on isolated exercises and prefer complex exercises. Bench press, squatting, deadlift, bend over rows or forced transfer – these are examples of good complex exercises that require coordination of multiple muscle groups. These exercises should form the basis of your training plan.
In addition to being more complex than their isolated opposites, these movements offer a significant advantage that allows training with heavy weights aimed at the target muscle group. Arnold believed that performing these movements and overcoming oneself had the greatest and most important share in gaining strength and volume.
2. Use heavy weights and few repetitions
For Arnold, choosing the right weight is as important as choosing the right exercise. Essentially, 8 reps of squat with weight of 160 kg are a better stimulus for muscle mass than 40 reps with weight of 45 kg.
“Begin with fewer reps to warm up (but not to cause total muscle exhaustion), then add weight to each series and reduce the number of reps until you reach your peak,” Arnold wrote. “Usually there was a person who helped me get over the top point or help me increase the weight.”
Arnold not only focused on weight, but also wanted to make sure the weight was within the target range: “I have a certain limit. I never do less than six reps with most movements but also never more than 12. This rule can be applied to most parts of the body, including the calves.” Make sure, therefore, that with the accurate choice of weights, the number of repetitions will be in above mentioned range.
3. Don’t settle for routine
Only a few people know that Arnold has a degree, but he did not need a diploma to know that the decline in revenue could also be applied to exercise. Doing the same exercises for a longer period of time without significant changes has a decreasing value over time. This happens when a bodybuilder finds himself in a training routine.
“Based on a certain structure, I regularly changed exercises. I liked to shock my muscles by not leaving them in stereotype.” Arnold has always planned his workouts as a homework. As soon as he found out that an exercise no longer produced results, he replaced it with another. He was never afraid to experiment with exercises or alternative training methods and was still looking for new ways to become bigger and better if the old ways seemed to be ineffective.
4. Move through the failure to advanced techniques
In his book, Arnold identifies the use of various advanced training techniques as a weapon to strengthen lagging parts of the body. He relied on the trial-and-error method, so he tried different techniques himself, and then focused on what worked best for him.
Do not be afraid to apply techniques such as forced repetitions, negatives, dropsets, partial repetitions, rest – pause or other ideas that you have read about. After using one technique, notice how you feel, do not set each series until exhaustion, but keep the 1-2 toughest series for each exercise.
5. Protect yourself from overtraining
In your zeal for muscle development, you may be in a state where you want to throw everything away and flush it, but Arnold warns against this counterproductive strategy: “There will be days when some part of the body will lag behind because you over-trained and overloaded it. So often and intense that it never had time to relax, recover and grow.”
“The answer to this problem is to give the strengthened muscles a chance to recover and to adjust the training plan so that there is no overtraining. Remember, too much can be as bad as too little when we talk about bodybuilding training.”
6. The volume is best built up by presses
Comprehensive exercises, such as presses and high pulls, best build the volume in the shoulders. Arnold practiced these exercises especially at the beginning of the workout when his energy level was highest. He usually exerted presses with a barbell behind and in front of his head to complete development.
7. Learn different ways to do one move
Small differences in how similar movements work on the target muscle group in slightly different ways provides a better stimulus.
Arnold looked for alternative exercises that work on the target muscle from different angles. For example, using one-arm dumbbells instead of a large dumbbell at overhead presses, he deliberately reduced the weight distance a few inches below the lower point of movement, and subsequently brought the one-arm dumbbells together to the upper part, extending the range of movement.
8. Attack the shoulders with isolated exercises
Arnold used isolated exercises to supplement the overhead pressure and isolate the deltoid muscles. Here, he also searched for differences that better build overall size over time. For example, when stretching arms on the pulleys from the front, you feel engaging other parts of the muscles than the back. Knowing how to do some movement and create a pattern of movement on different machines is crucial for a bodybuilder to take his figure to the next level.
9. Train the upper trapezes together with the shoulders
Arnold trained them at the same time, because the upper trapezes receive a certain amount of stimulation during various shoulder exercises. His main exercise for upper trapezes was “shoulder shrug”. Maximizing this muscle, however, required a number of other movements, including force pull, relocation and rowing. Since the range of movement when shrugging is relatively short, Arnold recommends lowering weight in favour of full arm shrugging as high as possible.
10. Gain the volume with a large dumbbell with a curl in standing position
Arnold loved the curl in standing position to get a “baseball biceps”. Looking for special movement to gain muscles, he preferred exercises that allowed him to lift heavy weights and allowed him a full range of movement to do 6 to 8 heavy reps. This is how he developed huge biceps and claims it is a good start for your workouts too.
11. Do not stop after failure
Some do curls until muscle failure, but Arnold never stopped. When he reached the climax, he took enough time to finish the series. Sometimes he did pull up curls with an auxiliary body movement to complete a few extra reps to help stimulate the muscles more.
12. Change angling of one-arm dumbbell at curls
Arnold describes in the book that he always included at least one movement with one-arm dumbbell in the training routine. By twisting catch, thus turning upwards as he did the curl, he felt higher “peak” effect because the brachialis was placed in the neutral position in which he started. Arnold performed a single-arm curl simultaneously with alternating repetitions. Later, he allowed the body to rest more between repetitions.
13. Do more reps for some exercises
Not every biceps movement he did with 6 to 8 repetitions. Arnold identified some of the exercises he called the ‘definition of bodybuilding movements’ and performed them with relatively lighter weights in a series of 8 to 12 repetitions. There, he focused on compressing and contracting the muscle and keeping the peak contraction for a longer time. The isolated curl, the curl with the support of the forearm on the Gironde’s bench, and the alternating curls with the dumbbell were one of his favourites.
14. Experiment with a strong part of your body
Arnold’s chest and triceps were particularly strong parts, so he did not train them in the same way as biceps. Because his triceps were already strong, he did up to 20 reps in series in an attempt to pump up the muscle.
15. Set your exercise goal
“It’s stupid to do triceps exercises and don’t really know which part of the triceps you’re strengthening.” That’s great advice, but how to apply it?
Arnold suggests a tip he learned from legendary coach Vince Girond: “Do 20 series of one movement and then nothing else for that part of the body. Then note where the pain is concentrated the next day.”
16. Add partial reps after failure
Arnold’s advanced technique of triceps exercise selection were partial repetitions. After doing the full range of pulling pulley, he added 5-6 partial repetitions to the series, either over the top, bottom or half of the movement. Although he couldn’t do a single repetition in its entirety anymore and was limited by the peak point, he was still able to do a few repetitions because he was driven by growth.
17. Take extra series to intensify your workout
Arnold often added series for biceps and triceps exercises, or in other words, doing exercises one after another to bring a large amount of blood to his arms. Blood carries oxygen and nutrients important for growth, but these extra series also allowed Arnold to achieve his ultimate training goal: “murderous pumping“. Extra series for a smaller group of muscles, such as arms, are easier than for larger groups, such as legs, although Arnold often did them the same way.
18. Let your weakness be your priority
When you have a large chest, it is natural that you want to show it and you deal more with it in the gym. But Arnold had a completely opposite approach. At one point, Arnold noticed that his calves were lagging behind overall physical development. Rather than conceal his weakness, he triumphantly cut off the bottom of his pants and started to wear shorts. In doing so, he constantly reminded himself of his weaknesses and trained them more. He focused his workout on his calves and trained them at the beginning of his training when he was still fresh, and sometimes even between a series of larger body parts, which strategically helped him to get the world’s most recognized bodybuilding title.
19. Try everything
By having long legs, Arnold was not only lagging with his calves, but also with his thighs. Therefore, on the day of leg training, he dropped all of his training plans, and as he himself wrote: “It was very difficult for me to work my legs, because I have long legs and therefore my muscles are long too.”
The so-called long-legged bodybuilder has to explore different variations of exercise. So, Arnold advises you to include other exercises until you know what works best for you. Of course, you should not forget to change your routine to keep your muscles constantly surprised.”
20. Adjust your posture as needed
You certainly know how important a posture is, for example, when squatting. Arnold tested the different positions of the legs during the squatting to see how they worked on different parts of the thighs. “If I had my feet farther apart and my toes pointed outward, I could feel a squat inside my thighs. The position of the legs greatly influences which part of the thighs is most strengthened.”
Arnold liked to use different variations of squats and machines both in standing and lying position, so he could use different leg positions to train every part of leg.
21. Use squatting machines to improve
Squatting machines do not have to be a tool for beginners only. Arnold complicated the exercises on them. He used a short movement – he went down to the squat only in three quarters and went up in the quarter only. He called this technique “power squats” and allowed him to feel burning in his legs without having to struggle with the balance of weight.
22. Add hamstring exercises
Although hamstrings work during the base squat, pressure movements, when controlling the speed of the squat and the subsequent stretch, Arnold argues the need for exercises aimed specifically at these parts.
Deadlift is an excellent exercise for the whole body, kickbacks or Romanian deadlift focus on hamstrings. Strengthening and firmness of hamstrings is important to reduce the risk of knee injury that can occur when the muscle mass of quadriceps overcomes the strength of hamstrings.
23. Train your abdominal muscles indirectly
Arnold’s approach to abdominal training was basically simple. He had several moves that he did in more repetitions. However, when you reconsider how hard he has been training his core during leg and back training, you will find that basically he did not need to particularly train his abdomen at all. Difficult and complex exercise certainly played a more important role in the strength as well as the aesthetics of his abdomen.
24. Work on your strenght to reach size
The development of a large chest began for Arnold with strength training when he competed as a powerlifter at the beginning of his career. He found it easier to reach size with a power base. Out of season, consider a powerlifting cycle that will help to strengthen as well as better numbers before returning to bodybuilding training. As a personal record, Arnold “pushed” 102 kg in 60 reps!
25. Use multiple angles
In his training routine, Arnold included a basic comprehensive exercise to focus on the chest from different angles. In one article he wrote, “I knew the routine must be basic and at the same time very difficult.” The basis for Arnold was to practice on a straight, ascending and descending bench, while occasionally training rather as a powerlifter than alternating many machines or using trends technique. Arnold left pumping at the end of the training.
26. Cyclic training has driven him to grow
What formed the basis of Arnold’s routine was the amount and frequency of training for each part of the body. His off-season training routine sometimes included as many as 26 series on a more challenging day, while he trained his chest up to three times a week. He alternated hard and light days in strengthening muscles with relatively different intensities, so that he did not overtrain the chest.
27. Learn variations with a one-arm dumbbell
Although he preferred to exercise with a great two-arm dumbbell because he could lift heavier weights, he was aware of the benefits of the one-arm dumbbell too. He noted that he felt better stretching in one-arm dumbbell exercises, and at the same time he could exercise to a greater extent than with a two-handed dumbbell. One-arm dumbbells allow a wider range just be careful about pulling the muscle.
28. Change pull ups and pulling down
Arnold divided back training into two types of movements: pull ups and wide pulls and perpendicular bent over rows for general reinforcement. He used all sorts of variations to form, so he did pull ups undergrasp and overgrasp with weight, but also without added weight. He alternated pulls too – sometimes pulled behind the head, sometimes to the chest. By varying the different angles, he achieved better overall development.
29. Keep your elbows in mind
The curl in the standing position, with the elbows remaining more on the sides, has a better effect on the upper part of the widest back muscle. In narrow grip and invert grip exercises, the elbows stay closer, reducing pressure on the upper part of the triangular muscle and acting more strongly on the lower part. This implies a dependence of the elbow position on influencing the strengthening of the different parts of the back.
30. Set your goal based on repetitions
Many trainers usually do 3 to 4 sets of some practice, but in pull ups, Arnold usually used a technique to achieve a certain number of repetitions, claiming that 50 reps are better than a specific number of series.
He said: “For the first series you do, for example, 10 reps. For the second season you may already be fighting to do 8 reps, but you already have 18 together. If you do at least 5 for the third series, you have 23. This will continue until you reach 50, even if you have to do 20 series. This is how I built my strength in pull ups and was successful.”
31. Do perpendicular rows as you add weight
Perpendicular rows were a big part of Arnold’s training. He had various favorite variations (seating rows over the lower pulley to the belly, rows of a specially modified two-handed T-barbell), but each was carried out with a large volume and gradually increased weight. Arnold followed a pyramid scheme in which he gradually increased weight on the basis of successful series with decreasing repetitions. Only the most difficult series led to muscle failure.
It’s up to you whether you want to train and grow like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but it’s definitely great to get inspired by his tips. As you may have noticed, you can feel from his tips how he loved exercising and how he enjoyed himself in trying and “playing” with his muscles. Arnold is definitely a great inspiration and idol for many and there is no wonder about it.
If you have any tips, share them with us in the comments. If you find the article helpful, don’t hesitate to share it.
- Schwarzenegger, A. (1997, 1.july). Arnold Talks Training. Muscle and Fitness..
- Schwarzenegger, A., Dobbins, B. (1998). A new encyclopedia of modern bodybuilding. Simon and Schuster